Posts from 2019

Smart Home Standards

Yesterday, Apple, Google, and Amazon annonuced that they are teaming up with Zigbee and creating a working group called Project Connected Home Over IP. The Verge has a good post on what is going on here and why. And in that post they show this great xkcd comic:

I am hopeful that something good and useful will come of this new partnership between Zigbee and the largest tech companies in the world.

Over the last two weeks, the Gotham Gal and I have been moving into a new home we built and we have had moments of joy (like when we easily programmed our cars to open and close the garage doors) and pain (when we could not use a Nest thermostat in our office because “that HVAC unit doesn’t talk to Nest”).

When I sit back and compare this move-in experience to one we had twenty years ago, when smart home technologies were new and we were early adopters, I can see how far we have come. You can make a new home “smart” so much less expensively and easily now.

But we are still very far from where things should be and will be.

I am hopeful that some new open industry standards can and will help.

There is nothing wrong with going from 14 standards to 15 standards if the 15th standard is actually useful. And it may well be that the other 14 are too.

#life lessons

Meet Cute

An interesting project came out of USV this year.

My partner Andy had a hunch about short form content, audio entertainment, and romantic comedy and he launched a company to explore these ideas called Meet Cute.

Meet Cute produces short (15 minute) romantic comedies that are consumed in five chapters of three minutes each and are available on your favorite audio/podcasting service.

You can check them out here:

Apple

Google

Spotify

Stitcher

SoundCloud

iHeart

Meet Cute is about delivering a little bit of heart warming entertainment in the middle of our busy lives via a medium we all have in our cars and phones. I listened to the most recent story last night on the LA Metro on my way downtown to a basketball game.

The Meet Cute team is very small but they are already producing content at a rapid pace. Three fifteen minute stories will drop this week and that pace will quicken in the new year.

The leader of the Meet Cute team is Naomi Shah who worked as an analyst at USV and helped Andy develop this idea and plan. And brand and marketing is led by my daughter Emily Wilson. These two women are very talented as is the Meet Cute entire team.

A great way to stay engaged with Meet Cute is to subscribe to the weekly Meet Cute newsletter to stay up-to-date on all things Meet Cute, including new story drops. It never fails to give me a smile when I need it the most.

#mobile#streaming audio

Gateways

Most big technology changes don’t come out of nowhere. There are predecessor technologies that predate and portend what is to come. I like to call these predecessor technologies “gateways.”

In the case of the web, there were two important gateways. The first was CD ROMs. There was a moment in NYC in the early 90s when we all thought CD ROMs were going to be the future of media. That is when the NY New Media Association was formed and there was a ton of excitement in the air about new digital.media services that would be delivered to our computers via CD ROMs.

Around the same time we saw the rise of online services like AOL, CompuServe, and Prodigy. These services allowed users to connect via dialup modem and do things like chat and email.

The CD ROM wave taught users to browse and explore rich media on their computers.

The online services wave taught users to dialup and chat and email.

So by the time the web browser showed up in the mid 90s, users were primed for the combination of the two – dialing up to chat, email, and browse rich media. It was a killer combination of the two and so much more.

As we think about crypto, we look for these gateways. One is certainly the financial speculation and trading of crypto assets. That has brought millions to the crypto sector and is the primary reason that people own or have owned crypto assets.

Another might be stablecoins that operate on closed or semi-closed networks. These stablecoins may not support the broadest set of applications envisioned by projects like Ethereum and others, but they may get hundreds of millions of people around the world owning and transacting with crypto assets.

It is tempting to get caught up in the big vision of what is possible with a powerful technology.like crypto and dismiss the gateways. But that would be a mistake as they are often necessary to set the stage for what is to come.

#VC & Technology

Having Kids

Paul Graham wrote a blog post this week about having kids. I read it with interest because I have long noticed that having kids has had a profound and positive effect on Paul. So I was interested in what he had to say on the topic. I am not going to summarize what he said, you can read it here, but suffice it to say that he has found it to be an very positive experience.

The Gotham Gal and I had children fairly early in our marriage and we had three children before I started Flatiron Partners in 1996. That was mostly driven by Joanne as she pushed for having kids early and I went along with that plan.

When founders and other executives ask the Gotham Gal when is the right time to have kids, she always says “now” and explains that there will never be a good time to have kids so you might as well get on with it.

In my experience, that is good advice for a lot of reasons. Having young children is demanding and the younger you are, the easier it is to manage all of those demands.

I also believe that having children teaches you things you can’t learn any other way and that those lessons are incredibly valuable in other parts of your life, including your work life.

In my line of work, I have to work with hard charging willful entrepreneurs who won’t take orders from anyone (nor should they). Having children and learning how to work with them when we are not on the same page has helped me a lot with entrepreneurs.

Children have taught me to be patient, to care, and be present (something that has been a challenge for me over the years). Those are things that are extremely valuable in all walks of life.

But certainly the best thing of all about having kids is the children themselves. I have a lot of relationships in my life, but the relationships I have with my wife and children are the very best ones. Just getting a text from one of my kids is often the highlight of my day.

So if you are struggling with the question of when to have kids, I side with the Gotham Gal on this. Do it now. It will be the greatest thing you do and it will change your life. Like it did for Paul.

#life lessons

The Filecoin Testnet Is Live

Our portfolio company Protocol Labs is the creator of the IPFS protocol and the Filecoin protocol. The idea behind both of these open source projects is to decentralize the storage of information on the web.

The Filecoin project is very ambitious. The idea is to create a decentralized storage network by allowing anyone to mine Filecoin by hosting files on the Filecoin network.

Yesterday the Filecoin project announced that the Filecoin Testnet is live. This means that an “alpha” version of the Filecoin network is up and running and anyone can connect to it and use it.

Filecoin has been 2 1/2 years in development since the project was funded in the summer of 2017. The launch of the testnet signals that the research and design phase is over and the protocol is now making it way towards going live next year.

This is a story that is playing out all across crypto. Many high profile projects were funded in 2017 and 2018 and have been heads down designing and building their protocols and networks since then.

Getting these projects out of development and into the market is a big step for the crypto sector and I believe that will be a big theme for crypto in 2020.

#blockchain#crypto

Butter

I once asked a famous celebrity chef how he made his pasta taste so good.

He answered “Butter. Lots of it.”

When we land in Paris, jet lagged and cranky, we head right to our favorite street cafe and order strong coffee, baguettes and butter. And our systems are restored.

Butter is one of my life’s treasures. I love it.

Butter is also something we look for in the products and services we invest in at USV.

My partner Nick coined the term Butter, at least inside of USV, and he wrote about Butter on his blog recently, explaining what it is and why we look for it.

I particularly like this part of his post:

On the consumer side, Butter means end-user experiences that are frictionless and joyful.  For example, I recently went to China and was blown away by the QR Code experience — straight butter wherever you go, linking the real world to the online world.  Duolingo is Butter for Learning.  Nurx is Butter for Health.  Coinbase is Butter for Crypto.  Amazon Prime is Butter for e-Commerce.

https://www.nickgrossman.is/2019/the-butter-thesis/

Nick provides some good guidelines on how you can make your product or service buttery in his post.

We look for buttery products and services to invest in because customers look for buttery products and services to use. It is really that simple.

So when you design and build your product or service, make it buttery. That will lead to all sorts of good things.

#entrepreneurship#VC & Technology